County Superior Court P1/13-725BG Associate Justice Robert D.
State: Lauren S. Zurier Department of Attorney General
Defendant: Jeffrey Biolchini, Esq.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Robinson, Flaherty, and
Suttell, Chief Justice
30, 2012, three persons were brutally murdered in the Arbor
Glen housing complex in Providence during an attempted
robbery that took a tragic turn. Michael Martin, the primary
target of the robbery, was shot nine times in the kitchen of
his apartment. Damien Colon was shot once in the chest, and
Shameeka Barros, who had been sleeping on a couch in the
living room, was shot several times as the intruders fled the
Husband (defendant or Husband), then sixteen years old, was
initially identified as the sole shooter. Following a waiver
hearing in the Family Court, a Family Court justice waived
that court's jurisdiction over the juvenile.
Subsequently, new information came to light and the
state's theory of the case indicated that Husband was not
the shooter. He was nevertheless indicted, tried, and
convicted of three counts of first-degree murder, three
counts of discharging a firearm while committing a crime of
violence, and one count of conspiracy to commit robbery. For
the reasons set forth in this opinion, we vacate the judgment
state filed a petition of delinquency in Family Court against
Husband, charging him with the following offenses: three
counts of first-degree murder for the murders of Martin,
Barros, and Colon; three counts of using a firearm during a
crime of violence; and one count of conspiracy to commit
robbery. The state also moved to waive the Family Court's
jurisdiction. On September 28, 2012, the Family Court hearing
justice found probable cause to believe that Husband had
committed the offenses charged; and, on October 19, 2012, the
Family Court waived its jurisdiction over the juvenile based
on the heinous and premeditated nature of the offenses.
Husband was subsequently indicted by a Providence County
grand jury on the same charges that were the subject of the
Family Court delinquency petition.
trial commenced on July 9, 2014. The state's narrative
was primarily established by Donovann Hall. Hall testified
that he knew one of the victims, Martin, because Hall bought
a "quarter" (seven grams) of marijuana from Martin
every day. Martin lived with Barros and her two children.
Hall occasionally hung out, smoked, and played video games
with Martin and Colon at Martin's apartment. While at
Martin's apartment, Hall noticed that Martin had a lot of
money and marijuana, and he observed where Martin kept the
money and marijuana. In July 2012, Hall formed the idea to
rob Martin. Hall brought the idea to Tim DeBritto and, in the
presence of Russell Burrell,  told DeBritto that he had a
"lick" in mind and, according to Burrell's
testimony, that they could get a couple of pounds of
marijuana and maybe "a couple thousand"
dollars. Two days later, on July 30, 2012, at
DeBritto's house, Hall asked DeBritto if he was
"down to doing [the robbery]" and DeBritto
responded that he was. DeBritto also told Burrell to do the
robbery with Hall. Burrell testified that DeBritto was his
cousin and a very close friend. The three of them then went
outside, Burrell leading the way, with a black, 9mm firearm
in his hand. According to Burrell, DeBritto stayed behind.
Hall identified the murder weapon as a black, Glock, 9mm
handgun, with a red "light under the gun."
to Hall and Burrell, defendant showed up at DeBritto's
house just as they were leaving to rob Martin. Hall testified
that he was surprised that Burrell invited defendant to
participate because Hall had first met defendant when
defendant robbed him for marijuana at gunpoint a couple of
months earlier. In an earlier police interview, Burrell said
that he told defendant about the robbery and that, at first,
defendant did not want to participate but that he eventually
"came around." At trial, however, Burrell explained
that everything he had said about defendant during the
interview was not true, and he testified that defendant was
"never" at Martin's apartment. Dakota Snell,
Burrell's acquaintance, also testified that she was at
DeBritto's house that evening and saw DeBritto, Burrell,
and Hall wearing black hoodies, but that she did not see
defendant there. According to Hall and Burrell, when they
arrived at Martin's apartment, Hall rang the doorbell or
knocked on the window, and told Martin that they wanted to
buy some "weed." Martin invited them to enter.
Inside, Colon was at the kitchen table; and Barros was lying
down, asleep, on the living room couch. Burrell suddenly
pulled out the gun and said, "You know what time it
is" and asked, "where's the shit?"
According to Burrell, Martin pointed and said it was in the
drawer. Hall and Burrell testified that, as Hall looked
through the drawer, Burrell shot Martin. Hall also
testified that, while this was happening, defendant was
looking in a bedroom. Burrell then shot Colon in the chest
and shot Barros several times. According to Burrell, Hall
said, "Gotta kill her", and Burrell gave Hall the
gun and he shot her a final time. Hall testified, however,
that he ran out of the apartment as soon as the first shot
was fired. Hall testified that he stated, "it wasn't
supposed to happen like that" and that defendant
responded, "Shit happens."
and Burrell both testified that Hall then obtained a ride to
the home of Ivy Copeland. Hall testified that he told Copeland
that the robbery he had planned "didn't go the right
way." Copeland testified that Hall confided the details
of the robbery to her, implicating himself and Burrell, and
explained that DeBritto was the shooter. Copeland said that
Hall never mentioned defendant's participation. Seventeen
shell casings were recovered from the crime scene, all of
which were 9 millimeter.
witnesses also testified that they saw defendant going to 151
General Street, the crime scene location, and leaving that
location after shots were fired. Jose Hernandez testified
that he knew defendant from playing basketball and from
attending programs at the Wanskuck Boys and Girls Club with
him. Hernandez testified that, on the night of July 30, 2012,
he heard eight or nine gunshots and saw defendant and Burrell
put their hoods on and start running across General Street.
He also testified that, when the police originally
interviewed him, he said he was not sure if he had seen
defendant because he was afraid of defendant. Emily Molina
also testified that, on that evening, she saw Burrell and
defendant walking nearby from outside her window moments
before she heard gunshots and that they were both wearing
black hoodies. She further testified that she looked out her
front door and saw Burrell and defendant walking in the
opposite direction from which she had seen them walking
before the gunfire.
addition, Lewis Smith, defendant's grandfather, testified
that he was in his living room watching wrestling the evening
of the murders. Smith claimed that, between 9 p.m. and 11
p.m., defendant was at home and stayed mostly in his bedroom.
Anderson testified that, in June 2012, Burrell and defendant
went to Anderson's house and that defendant wanted to do
pushups. Anderson recalled that defendant asked him to hold a
black 9mm handgun he was carrying so he could do the pushups.
At a police interview, Burrell corroborated that he and
defendant had gone to Anderson's house and identified
that particular gun as the murder weapon.
a fellow inmate of defendant, Ricardo Vasquez, told police
that, while in prison, defendant told him that he and Burrell
had been "put on" to a robbery for marijuana and
money, that they had been given a gun, and that Burrell shot
two men and a woman. He also explained that Burrell threw
defendant "under the bus" and had "pretty much
told on him, " even though police had no other evidence
jury convicted defendant on all seven charges, and the trial
justice denied defendant's motion for a new trial. On
December 11, 2014, the Superior Court sentenced defendant to
three concurrent life sentences for first-degree murder,
three concurrent life sentences for discharging a firearm
during a crime of violence (to be served consecutively to the
murder sentences), and ten years of incarceration for
conspiracy (to be served consecutively to the firearm
sentences). The defendant timely appealed.
appeal, defendant contends that the Family Court violated his
due process rights by waiving jurisdiction without a
meaningful review. Specifically, defendant argues that the
Family Court erred (1) "by focusing on the nature of the
charges rather than the nature of [defendant]'s conduct,
" (2) by "wrongfully refus[ing] to vacate the
waiver even when the Attorney General abandoned its claim
that [defendant] was the shooter, " and (3) "by
failing to consider [defendant]'s background and
potential for rehabilitation."
Court employs 'a de novo standard [w]hen
reviewing an appeal based on an alleged error of
law.'" In re Estate of Griggs, 63 A.3d 867,
869 (R.I. 2013) (quoting Warwick Sewer Authority v.
Carlone, 45 A.3d 493, 498 (R.I. 2012)).